|Andy Lyons / Getty Images|
|Ravens LB Ray Lewis is often considered the ultimate locker-room leader.|
Most NFL coaches like to think that they set, direct and implement the tone and tenor for their football teams. They like to believe that they control the message that sticks throughout the locker room. And they often firmly believe that they dictate exactly how plays are run, how technique unfolds, how the performance goes.
The smarter ones know that they are only as good as their top locker-room messengers and in-game, on-field diplomats.
Because you show me a team that has ever won anything that ultimately mattered (the Super Bowl), and what you always will find is a player or two or three who provided the ultimate locker-room leadership and the difference-making in practice and on-field instruction shared among the players. A championship team always has that player who is the cornerstone of ownership in effort and production among the players.
Most NFL players will tell you that while coaching is critical, it isn't just the coaching, it's also who is the catalyst walking among them?
This is essential as we assess two locker-room orators of late, QB Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and newly arrived WR Terrell Owens in Buffalo.
Manning has let everyone know that he is confused and feels out of the loop with his team's coaching changes. You think his teammates ignored that? Or had not heard it prior?
Owens recently arrived in Buffalo for practices with a camera crew in tow, exited and later blew up the Dallas Cowboys' locker room by blaming, among others, his former quarterback (Tony Romo) for ushering his departure from the team.
Sometimes, coaches wish some of these players would simply shut up.
Sometimes, coaches wish certain ones would say more.
Sometimes, they just wait to see what hammer drops next, while also surveying the right spots and the right players to use as examples to keep an effective hand on the group.
This is the ultimate coaching tap dance. It is better navigated with the proper locker-room voice. And that voice often must be a player who first does his talking in his play on the field.
These are among the penetrating voices among NFL teams -- for better in some instances, for worse in others.
The 32 voices
These players are not the lone voices heard in their respective NFL locker rooms, but they are among the primary ones:
Arizona: QB Kurt Warner -- He talks a good game and backs it up.
Atlanta: TE Tony Gonzalez -- Just arrived and will make his voice heard as much as his presence.
Baltimore: LB Ray Lewis -- The ultimate locker-room persona.
Buffalo: Owens -- He will refuse to be ignored.
Carolina: QB Jake Delhomme -- Courageous, tough player whose down-home style clicks in his locker room.
Chicago: LB Brian Urlacher -- Usually succinct, often on point.
Cincinnati: WR Chad Ochocinco -- Carson Palmer should continue to jerk the role away from him, but this player, even as much as some of his teammates try to ignore him, is the locker-room voice.
Cleveland: RB Jamal Lewis -- Proud, inspiring voice.
Dallas: WR Patrick Crayton -- Amusing, enlightening and can prick a teammate from near or far.
Denver: S Brian Dawkins -- New and instantly the resonating voice.
Green Bay: WR Donald Driver -- Experienced, sound voice.
Houston: DE Antonio Smith -- Newly arrived, but there is not a more sensible voice in the league.
Indianapolis: Manning -- Oftentimes an encouraging voice but not shy about setting fires.
Jacksonville: QB David Garrard -- Team-oriented player widely respected in his locker room.
Kansas City: WR Bobby Engram -- Also new to his team but seasoned and respected.
Miami: LB Joey Porter -- Wired, animated, a force.
Minnesota: DE Jared Allen -- Colorful and impactful among his teammates.
New England: LB Tedy Bruschi -- A voice of reason and inspiration.
New Orleans: QB Drew Brees -- Passionate voice.
New York Giants: LB Antonio Pierce -- He relishes the role as team orator and has a flair for it.
New York Jets: LB Bart Scott -- New to his club but will be the perfect locker-room instrument.
Oakland: RB Lorenzo Neal -- A powerful voice his new teammates will learn to engage.
Philadelphia: QB Donovan McNabb -- Up and down in his locker-room impact but way up right now.
|Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press|
|Veteran WR Hines Ward (right) remains a powerful voice on and off the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers.|
Pittsburgh: WR Hines Ward -- The ultimate leader.
St. Louis: LB Chris Draft -- You have a problem, he will let you know it.
San Diego: QB Philip Rivers -- Evolving but clearly a strong voice.
San Francisco: LB Jeff Ulbrich -- A veteran player with a pure professional voice.
Seattle: QB Matt Hasselbeck -- Highly opinionated across the locker room.
Tampa Bay: CB Ronde Barber -- Smart, fair, concerned and a savvy communicator.
Tennessee: LB Keith Bulluck -- His truth across the locker room is powerful.
Washington: LB London Fletcher -- Seen so much, experienced so much and, in tireless ways, shares it all with his teammates.